Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Generosity of Geese

One evening in early August I was strolling in Stewart Park, at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, when I spotted a couple carrying a large animal crate toward the lake shore. Intrigued, and anticipating a release of some kind, I followed and watched the following scene unfold…

The door of the crate was opened, and the couple stepped aside as they waited for whatever was within to emerge. Nothing happened. The crate was then up-ended, and out slid two young geese. (I later learned they were the outcome of a school project involving eggs). Our lake is a big lake and the geese stood as though stunned for a few minutes as they gaped at the expanse of water. Uncertain what to do or what was expected of them, they shifted from one foot to the other, and paced nervously along the shoreline. The couple settled on a log to wait for the moment that the geese would take their first step to freedom.

 In the meantime, the new arrivals had been spotted by some of our local geese gathered on the lake. A pair, apparently a mother and adolescent, separated from the rest and started to float a bit closer. Lingering about 50 feet from shore they expressed obvious interest and curiosity by establishing eye contact with the new arrivals and maintaining an open stance as they ever so slowly drifted forward. There were quiet calls. The orphans watched them for a few moments. 

Then, suddenly, the two geese on shore lifted off as one and flew low over the surface of the water to a point just beyond the welcoming pair. Upon landing they turned and swam – quickly – over to the mother and child, taking positions on either side of the smaller goose.  The youngsters appeared to be the same size and age. They looked like they belonged together. The new family turned, and quietly paddled off into the fading light.

I have sat for some time with my memories of that night, from the initial uncertainty and not knowing to the creation of a new family. As an introvert, I appreciate being approached with gentle curiosity and interest. Seeing this play out with the geese was stunning. I was especially struck by the sense of welcoming and of being welcomed. Recalling times when I have felt welcomed with a warm embrace, I have also wondered how often I am truly welcoming. There are so many examples in the world today of “us” vs “them”, of building fences, turning back and pushing away. Where do any of us truly belong? Even as a small child I remember feeling like an alien, looking around and thinking “this is not the way it is supposed to be”.

What does it say about humans that I find the highest ideals I aspire to being played out by geese on the lake shore? I'm afraid they are better at this than I am.

Their generosity of spirit continues to reach deep into my being and fill my heart with amazement and something akin to joy. Watching our native geese so simply and graciously gather in the outsiders reminded me… this is the way it is supposed to be.